WTO Trade Policy Review of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC)
Statement delivered by David Shark,
Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
July 29, 2013
The United States is delighted to welcome Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon to the first joint review of the Members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community. We look forward to the day when all six CEMAC member states join the WTO. We thank the delegations and the Secretariat for their respective reports, which were circulated prior to the meeting. We would also like to thank our discussant, Ambassador Alberto Pedro D’Alotto (Argentina), for his remarks on the review of these five Members.
The reports circulated for this meeting outlined critical areas of improvement and helped us understand recent developments in the CEMAC member states. The reports also highlighted reforms that are underway, and noted some of the challenges facing the countries as they strive to participate more effectively in the global trading system and to use trade as a means to stimulate greater economic growth and development.
The United States applauds CEMAC’s commitment to regional economic integration and the CEMAC member states’ efforts to break down barriers to regional trade. The United States strongly supports regional economic integration in sub-Saharan Africa, both in general and as it pertains to CEMAC specifically. We support these undertakings with the expectation that they advance and complement the multilateral trading system, and do not seek to raise barriers to non-members of the regional economic community while they lower barriers amongst their own members. CEMAC member states and members of other African regional economic communities need to work to simultaneously integrate themselves both regionally and into the global market. In that vein, we note that the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Gabon appear to be breaching their tariff bindings as a result of the adoption of the CEMAC common external tariff. Further, as noted by the Secretariat report, other duties and taxes introduced at the Community level appear inconsistent with the commitments of the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Chad. We look forward to hearing how these Members intend to come into conformity with WTO rules on this issue.
The CEMAC region is blessed with abundant natural resources. These natural resources provide CEMAC member states with a ready source of assets to fund their development that far exceeds many of their African counterparts. Indeed, this reality is reflected in the fact that three of the six CEMAC member states are non-LDCs, one of the highest proportions of any regional economic community in Africa.
The CEMAC member states have economic potential across a diverse range of economic sectors including resource extraction, agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Unfortunately at the present time, this potential diversity has not been realized in the structure of the economies of the CEMAC member states, which remain more dependent on the oil and mining sectors than on other sectors of the economy that have the potential to create new employment opportunities for Central Africans.
The United States stands ready to help. Most of the exports from CEMAC to the United States enter the U.S. market duty-free either on a most favored nation (MFN) or on a preferential basis. Since its launch in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), combined with the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) provisions have provided opportunities for real people and businesses, and contributed to the growth of African economies through expanded and diversified trade, and we are encouraged by AGOA’s positive trends. In 2012, U.S. total imports from the CEMAC region totaled over $8 billion. Non-oil imports were over $360 million, including cocoa paste, coffee, rubber articles, gum arabic, plywood, apparel, footwear and fruit. Additionally, the United States has extended an offer to combine U.S. technical assistance with CEMAC member states’ financial resources to create a Central Africa Trade Hub, aimed at helping businesses in the Central African countries develop and expand regional value-chains in key non-oil sectors. The United States has deep expertise in this area based on the experiences of the USAID funded Trade Hubs established in East, West, and Southern Africa.
As noted in the Secretariat Report for each of these countries, there are significant obstacles and costs for traders in each of these countries, as they go about their daily business of moving goods to market and participating in the international trading system. We look forward to constructive engagement on trade facilitation issues to promote measures to reduce red tape and customs and cross-border inefficiencies, which can significantly impact each Members’ — and Africa’s — regional and global trade competitiveness.
We have submitted questions for each of the Members under review, in areas such as customs procedures, intellectual property rights, and agricultural trade. We look forward to reviewing the responses.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, while we recognize the capacity constraints that may confront each government’s participation in the multilateral trading system, we are also mindful of the critical, positive role that increased trade openness can play in their economies. Making pro-trade domestic reforms consistent with the WTO framework, combined with trade liberalization efforts, are a proven framework for garnering foreign investment and generating economic growth. We look forward to continued work with CEMAC and wish all five CEMAC members here today a successful review.